New Jersey Special Civil Part, Small Claims Division: An Overview

Learn about filing a claim in the small claims division of the New Jersey Special Civil Part Court.

By , Attorney

What's the small claims dollar limit in New Jersey Special Civil Part Court?

You can ask for up to $5,000 for security deposits, and $3,000 for other matters in the small claims division in New Jersey Special Civil Part Court—the court that handles small claims matters in New Jersey.

Can a landlord bring an eviction lawsuit in a New Jersey small claims court?

The small claims division of the New Jersey Special Civil Part Court doesn't hear evictions. However, it's an excellent forum for other types of cases typically brought in small claims courts, such as property damage matters and breach of contract disputes.

Which New Jersey Special Civil Part Court should I file my small claims action in?

New Jersey has many Special Civil Part courts. You must choose the proper court location or "venue." Otherwise, the defendant—the person or company you sue—will be able to ask the court to transfer or dismiss your action. In New Jersey, you can file in the following counties:

  • where at least one individual defendant resides
  • where a business entity's registered office is located or where it is doing business, or
  • in security deposit claims, where the landlord lives.

Go to New Jersey's New Jersey's business records service webpage for company information. You might have other options, depending on your case. Most courts post venue rules on the court website.

What's the deadline to file a case in small claims court in New Jersey?

You don't have an unlimited amount of time to file a claim. You'll have to bring it within the statute of limitations period for your particular case. For example, the New Jersey statute of limitations periods is six years for contracts and property damage cases, and two years for personal injury matters. But it will depend on the type of action, and if you don't file within this period, you lose your right to sue.

Also, the statute of limitations can stop and restart depending on various circumstances, and figuring out when it expires can be challenging. For instance, if a minor is injured, the personal injury statute won't begin running until the child reaches 18 years of age. Learn more about calculating the statute of limitations.

Can an attorney represent a small claims claimant in New Jersey Special Civil Part Court?

Yes. Individuals can have a lawyer present the claim before the judge.

Does the defendant have to answer the small claims complaint?

Written responses are not allowed. However, you should check with your court to determine if there is anything you must do to avoid an automatic loss and default judgment. Learn what happens if you get sued in small claims court.

Will I have a judge or jury trial in small claims court in New Jersey?

Jury trials aren't allowed so a judge will hear your small claims hearing. A defendant can ask for a jury trial and transfer the case to the regular division of the court. Find out what to expect at the small claims trial.

Can I appeal a New Jersey Special Civil Part Court small claims case?

Yes. New Jersey law allows either party to file an appeal within 45 days of the date of judgment. Ask the court how you'll be notified of the judgment and where to find the judgment date. In many small claims courts, the clerk sends a notification by mail, but the procedure used by your court could be different. You must comply with this and other rules, so be sure to do your research and count the dates accurately, or talk with a local attorney.

Will the court collect my judgment for me?

No. You'll be responsible for all collection efforts. It's a good idea to determine whether you can collect before deciding whether to sue.

Where can I learn more about small claims court in New Jersey?

Most courts include filing instructions on the court website or provide self-help services. For additional resources, try the New Jersey small claims webpage. You can also view New Jersey law online on the New Jersey Department of State webpage. (N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A 18-66, 67, 69, 71; New Jersey Rules of Court, Rules 1:40-6; 2:4-1; 6:1 to 6:12-2.)

For detailed help with case filing, court strategy, and collecting a money judgment, see Everybody's Guide to Small Claims Court by Attorney Cara O'Neill (Nolo).

Look out for Legal Changes. This overview doesn't provide all of the information needed to file a small claims case. Also, keep in mind that statutes can change, and checking them is always a good idea. How the courts interpret and apply the law can also change. These are just some of the reasons to consult an attorney if you have any questions about litigating your case or if you aren't comfortable independently verifying the law.